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> Round One, Day One by Dan Kneipp

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Round
One: Lights out for Grant

by Dan
Kneipp
, Team
Kneipp report index

All content © 2003 Squashtalk

Dec 15, 2003

As expected
the first 16 matches of the World Open supplied some predictable
results with David Palmer, Simon Parke, Wael El Hindi, Karim Darwish,
Anthony Ricketts, and Amr Shabana all moving through to the 2nd
round. But the day didn’t go without an upset.

Adrian
Grant versus Peter Genever

I had said
that the match between Adrian Grant and Peter Genever offered a
good match and a slim chance of an upset. Genever didn’t let
me down, racing to a 2-0 lead. Grant’s ranking is nearly half
Genever’s and he had good results in Doha two weeks ago. He
won attritional battles against both Bengy and Chaloner –
two players who are very fit and patient. In the third game it looked
like Genever’s run had finished. He wasn’t looking anywhere
near as fresh as Grant and was struggling to get in a good position,
so his shots weren’t as crisp as before. He was either padding
the ball around with no conviction, or over-hitting them. Grant
appeared to be only one step away from everything, and if he over
committed to a ball or went the wrong way he was having a second
go as the over-hit ball came off the back wall. In contrast Genever’s
movement was sluggish and heavy and handicapped by Grant’s
better shot timing in the third. Grant loves going short on the
left hand wall (his forehand) and Genever knew this and was reading
the shots well. This simply forced Grant to put the balls closer
to the tin to create his winners. The 15-4 scoreline in the third
was a good indication of the playing difference.

But Genever
was either resting in the third, or aware that the longer the match
went the more likely it would help Grant. Everything he was doing
wrong in the third was turned around in the fourth. His padding
and over-hitting of the ball turned into crisp shots that put Grant
under constant pressure. His movement improved dramatically and
suddenly he was dictating all of the rallies. Grant wasn’t
too pleased with this form change, but couldn’t stop his opponent
from taking a 9-1 lead.

Last year at
the Pakistan Open there were continual problems with power outages.
Matches would be suddenly thrown into darkness, with either really
short delays before the lights came back on, or delays of a few
hours on a couple of occasions. Dutch player Tommy Berden played
here a couple of years ago and had a really bad case of food poisoning.
He went on court to try anyway, but expected the match to be a whitewash.
The power went out for four hours and his match was postponed until
the next day. By then he was able to recover sufficiently and went
on to win his match.

At 11-4 down
Grant needed to battle for everything and make a concentrated comeback.
Genever hit a great length down the right wall (Grant’s backhand)
which Grant would have been able to get to, but probably would have
been forced to boast or play a defensive shot. As he was going for
the shot the light flickered very momentarily. It was so quick that
the ref didn’t even notice. Grant asked for a let and was
pleading his case but not getting very far. He deadpanned “Did
the lights flick or was it just me blinking?”. His wit was
wasted on the ref and half the audience. Grant got the let but couldn’t
win the game, losing the match in four.

Amr
Shabana (Egy) versus Bradley Ball (Eng)
We
said that the Shabana versus Bradley Ball match was going to be
an enjoyable nick slapping fest. Here’s how it started:

– Ball served,
Shabana returned crosscourt, Ball slapped a winner.
– Ball
served, Shabana slapped a winner.

I was already
laughing by this time. This match wasn’t great squash (not
enough length or discipline and too many errors) but it was enjoyable
to watch. Shabana was happy at the start to simply keep padding
the ball around, making Ball create his own speed and too many errors
from this. Ball needs to spend some time watching McWhitey’s
game. Like the Scotsman Ball loves hitting nicks and smashing the
cover off the ball, but unlike McWhitey he hasn’t sorted out
how to do this at the right time, and more importantly not over
hit the ball. McWhitey is able to smash the ball, but still keep
it to a good length.

Shabana had
a 12-8 lead in the first, but Ball dragged it back and got to 14-13.
He couldn’t win the next point, or the ‘Set 1’
shootout.

The 2nd game
was similar to the first in that each player took turns having concentration
lapses. Shabana got to a 14-8 lead, but couldn’t stop Ball
from hitting three straight winners. Shabana wasn’t to be
outdone and hit a winner off the serve to go 2-0 up.

I didn’t
think any player went for more nicks off the serve as Shabana. Ball
does, and you could see it frustrated his opponent. Shabana was
doing different serves to try to stop this, but the Englishman was
hitting the ball on the volley, after it hit the side wall, and
even off the back wall and still putting it in the nick. At 10-7
to Ball he slammed another nick off the serve and Shabana said something
in Arabic. I ‘m guessing the translation was something along
the lines of “Oh bloody darn it, I would be most grateful
if you stopped doing that this instant mate”.

Ball got at
14-12 lead, but couldn’t convert his two game balls. He called
set 1, went to receive serve, had a moment to contemplate his decision
and changed it to three. It didn’t matter. Shabana got to
17 first and won through to the 2nd round.

Olli
Tuominen (Fin) versus Cameron White (Aus)

Olli didn’t
start out this match too well, and White did (no relation to McWhitey).
It took a while for the Fin to get into top gear and by the time
he did White had shown that he can play at a level higher than his
ranking suggests, he just doesn’t have the fitness and intensity
to keep it up. White’s fading energy levels allowed Olli to
hold the T and give White a painful tour of the court, eventually
causing him to hit the wall hard. At one stage he was on the receiving
end of a volley-drop sequence by Tuominen. White was moving forward
very gingerly for the next drop, only to see the ball sailing back
over his head for a well weighted lob. As it was in midair and White
was changing direction he called out "“Oh not again”.
I had to laugh. Olli won reasonably comfortably in 3.

Mansoor
Zaman (Pak) versus Lars Harms (Sui)
The
first round matches are spread out over two venues. I chose to watch
the ones at the Punjab Squash Complex and not the glass court because
I thought the match-ups offered more interesting and competitive
games. At this stage of a big tournament it’s not surprising
for the crowd to be small, mostly consisting of players and coaching.
But as the number one Pakistani player was participating I expected
it to get much more frantic. It did, including the arrival of a
television crew, but not nearly as busy as it should have been.

Lars broke
the strings of his racquet on the first rally, and this was indicative
of how his World Open campaign was going to go. The start of this
match was weird. Mansoor has great racquet skills, can hold the
ball very well, is extremely deceptive and good at hitting shots,
and can lunge beautifully when under pressure. But he doesn’t
seem to like lunging. Quite often even at the start of this match
he left easy balls go. Balls that would require a medium lunge,
but a typical ball that should be returned at this level. I was
bewildered when he did this in the first game. He had done it a
lot against Tuominen in his first round loss in Qatar, but I was
sure it wouldn’t happen here in Pakistan where he was the
local hero and had much more motivation. Sure enough it was happening
early in the first match. It’s understandable that ex-greats
like Jansher and Jahangir who were freak-like with their movement,
fitness and commitment find this frustrating and see it as part
of the reason that Pakistan is no longer the squash force it used
to be.

Lars led 11-7
in the first game. Pressure from Mansoor and a bad concentration
lapse from Lars allowed the Pakistani to win the next eight points
in a row to take the game. Part of Lars’ concentration lapse
seemed to be from heavy fatigue from the playing conditions. He
requested the ceiling fans to be turned on and spent the game break
in the adjoining room where the air conditioning was colder.

It was obvious
that Lars was drained of energy (I wasn’t able to ask him
if he had any health problems – he’s normally a guy
that will just keep running and running). The second game was over
in 10 minutes, the third in 8 minutes as the local hero moved comfortably
into the 2nd round.

Australia’s defending champion David Palmer comfortably
overcame his first hurdle in the opening day of first round action
in the $170,000 Bank Alfalah Men’s World Open Squash Championship
today (Sunday) in Lahore, Pakistan.

The third seed beat Egypt’s Mohammed Essam Hafiz
15-12 15-5 15-12 in 45 minutes to ease into Tuesday’s second round
at the Punjab Squash Complex. Palmer, the 27-year-old world No3
from Lithgow in New South Wales, won the world title for the first
time 12 months ago in his adopted home town of Antwerp in Belgium.

England’s world junior champion James Willstrop,
making his debut in the senior event, also progressed through to
the second round in straight games. The 29th seed from Pontefract
in Yorkshire defeated compatriot Lee Drew 15-8 15-8 15-8 in just
28 minutes and now meets Egypt’s former world junior champion Karim
Darwish, who beat Pakistani qualifier Safeerullah Khan 15-13 15-11
15-9 in 35 minutes.

1st round:
[7] Karim Darwish (EGY) bt [Q] Safeerullah Khan (PAK) 15-13, 15-11,
15-9 (35m)
[29] James Willstrop (ENG) bt Lee Drew (ENG) 15-8, 15-8, 15-8 (28m)
[21] Olli Tuominen (FIN) bt Cameron White (AUS) 15-11, 15-5, 15-9
(38m)
[3] David Palmer (AUS) bt Moh’d Essam Hafiz (EGY) 15-12, 15-5, 15-12
(45m)
[9] Amr Shabana (EGY) bt Bradley Ball (ENG) 15-14, 15-11, 17-16
(39m)
Peter Genever (ENG) bt [22] Adrian Grant (ENG) 17-16, 15-13, 4-15,
15-5 (65m)
[5] Anthony Ricketts (AUS) bt Cameron Pilley (AUS) 15-8, 15-5, 15-11
(35m)
[31] Wael El Hindi (EGY) bt Alister Walker (ENG) 15-9, 15-12, 15-12
(45m)
[15] Simon Parke (ENG) bt Ben Garner (ENG) 15-13, 17-16, 15-14 (50m)
[20] Mohammed Abbas (EGY) bt Viktor Berg (CAN) 15-7, 15-11, 9-15,
15-13 (43m)